Death was final once, but I don't think the Grim Reaper works that way anymore.
She was a presence across four lanes of traffic. A blonde haired look of fierce determination. A vision who captured my complete attention and never once knew I existed. There were other people there, of course, but I couldn't see them. Not really. Not just then.
"Hey, Mary Kay, see the guy across the street. He's Josh Evans my ex- business partner. I heard on the street he was moving back to Wilshire Boulevard so I guess the rumors are true."
How did he miss seeing her?
We were walking back from lunch on one of those 100 degree days that only happen in California. The kind of day where I would want to vanish into a some quiet little place like the one my dog always finds when he takes his mid day nap.
But not today.
I'd signed up a new client who'd probably keep the agency going for another couple of years and my boss just finished telling me I was the most wonderful person in the world. I knew he didn't really mean it, but it was real nice to hear anyway.
"Whose the babe, Al? Is she in the business?" I was waiting for Al to fill me in, but he didn't seem to notice her at first. He does know just about everyone in the LA Advertising scene and has a reputation for being a real nice guy even though A. Jardin et Cie is one of the most aggressive agencies in the city.
"Oh, her, I think she's Mallory Kane. I heard Josh met her up in San Francisco and sweet talked the babe into taking a sales job with his agency. She's a real nice looking girl, but I hear she's a killer when she goes after an account." He knew a few war stories, and what he thought was a killer sounded just like a lot of other effective women who always seem to surprise the guys when they can work a little bit harder and do just that much more until one day they end up winning.
Funny, how guys always think of business as a battle instead of work. Just something fun to do until something different comes along.
When I saw all the advertising people gathered there in one place, I couldn't help wondering what the bull shit level in Los Angeles would fall to if a bomb went off in the middle of the room.
"Thanks for letting me tag along with you, Al."
I've never been to an agency open house before and I really wanted to see how Josh decorated his new shop. I think Al only came to see if he and Josh could be friends again. Well, you know, anything's possible.
I was cool, calm and collected. Not.
I'd been planning my outfit for a week and changed my mind a thousand times. I finally settled on business sexy which works well in advertising if you pretend you don't notice the guys checking you out. A whole half day at the beauty shop and not just to have them fix up my ponytail either.
I didn't think anyone could tell how excited I was to be around all my heroes and I was kind of surprised that a few of them thought of me that way, too.
I met a million people that afternoon but I remember talking to only one.
"Hi, I'm Mallory Kane and I know you're Mary Kay Nichols cause your reputation proceeds you, my dear. Josh talks about you and Al all the time." Her voice was a smile that covered me all over with warmth and tenderness. A sense of mystery and intrigue wrapped up in fun and beauty. No smoke and mirrors here, just a real person, a person just like me.
We got to talking like we knew each other for the last hundred years. A lot of business of course, but a lot of other stuff as well. She could buy designer knock-offs for next to nothing and I new this place where you could get a massage that would get rid of tensions you didn't even know you had. We had a few names in common. Some of them we liked and some of them well, you know how that goes.
"Come on, Mary Kay. Let's get out of here and get a glass of white wine. I've had enough of these folks for one day."
We were off to the lounge on the first floor of her building. Kind of a cute place with just enough light to see who you're talking with, but not enough to give you a tan.
We became friends for hours and hours.
"Let's do lunch" really happened for once and we started meeting on and off whenever we had a chance.
I don't know how it works with men, but women need to have a special person to confide in and trust. A repository of secrets that only the two of them know.
We saw each other once or twice a week for almost two years. The two of us became best friends and every time we met, it seemed like only a minute or two had passed since the last time we were together.
November 17th was the day everything changed.
We went from friends to best friends to something we weren't sure of but we knew we liked it. It wasn't a lateral move either, but a step up to someplace I'd like to think was just one notch below heaven.
It was my turn to show off and I invited her for some real New Orleans style cooking.
When I was a kid living in Texas, my mom decided to hire a maid from New Orleans because the help you'd find in West Texas was "just too rustic." I didn't know what that meant but I did know I loved Lucille who taught me how to cook, introduced me to Zydeco music and looked at life a little differently than most people.
A cowgirl in the big city is a sight to behold.
It takes me all day to cook a meal. First thing in the morning I'm off to the store to get nothing but the best. I have to use those great big ole shrimp, hot links made by someone named Zatarain, and a mess of clams, oysters and lobster tails right off the boat. And, I need other stuff when I'm making a meal that says a little bit more than "Are you hungry?" We just had to have some Ribs, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Black Beans and Dirty Rice. Of course I'd have a little bit of Jack Daniels sipping whiskey on hand and maybe a couple of six packs of long neck Hecates. Yes, I still know how to make the best damn pecan pie anyone ever tasted, too. I didn't figure we'd be having a bonfire and roasting marshmallows later, but I was ready just in case.
I never do follow a recipe for any of this. I just know by looking how much Tabasco to use on the links, how much of this spice to sprinkle in the crock pot and how many of those vegetables to add in to whatever's cooking on the stove. I just somehow know a few of the secrets handed down by all those good cooks from days gone by.
Sometimes you're in trouble when you have to explain the meal before you start eating. Mallory was hesitant at first, but she got into it and made this little girl feel real good when she asked for seconds and how do you make this and what do you call that?
We found ourselves in the living room drinking Jack and Coke while we listened to Professor Longhair bang out some down home music. Somehow that became white wine and Air Supply encouraging us to do something new and different.
The first real kiss is special. Something you might just remember for the rest of you life.
"Mary Kay, I don't know what came over me. I just felt like kissing you and suddenly, well, you know."
Of course I knew, I was there enjoying everything she was giving away and trying to give back as much as I could.